The olecranon bursa is located right at the tip of your elbow. That pointy bone is called the olecranon, and a bursa is a tiny, fluid-filled sac that serves as a cushion to allow the smooth movement of the joint, such as the elbow.
These bursae, or sacs, are filled with lubrication fluid, and they can become swollen as a result of overuse or infections. The fluid will build up and cause pain and discomfort, and this is called bursitis (bursa + -itis). With elbow bursitis, your olecranon bursa becomes swollen and painful.
It’s fairly common for patients not to notice that they have early elbow bursitis, since it’s not something that is within plain view. Let’s talk about some of the early signs of elbow bursitis and what you can do about it.
Elbow Bursitis Symptoms
When it comes to elbow bursitis, the longer the inflammation goes unaddressed, the higher the chance of the condition becoming chronic or the bursa becoming infected. See your orthopedist if you notice any of the following signs in your elbow:
This is the earliest symptom of bursitis, and it is a response to irritation. You may not notice it early on when the swelling is still minimal, since the skin on that part of your elbow is loose. However, if the inflamed bursa bursts, the fluid can further infect other parts of the arm and develop into a major problem.
Place your hand on the tip of your elbow. Does it feel tender?
If so, as the swelling in the bursa gets worse, you will begin to feel signs including pain. You may notice the pain after resting your elbow on a table, which causes direct pressure on the olecranon bursa.
Difficulty Extending the Arm
Try straightening out your arm. Does it hurt?
While elbow bursitis typically does not affect range of motion, this condition can make it feel difficult to extend or straighten your arm. Overall, there is a level of discomfort originating in the elbow area.
Skin Is Red and Warm
Feeling unusual warmth anywhere in the body is a sign of infection. Your elbow bursa may have become infected if your elbow feels warm to the touch and appears red. At this point, you should seek medical attention before the bursa ruptures and spreads the infection into other areas of the body.
If you develop a fever, the infected bursa could have burst. This is a medical emergency – you could develop life-threatening sepsis. Seek medical attention right away.
Doctors Treating Elbow Bursitis
If you have pain in your elbow or somewhere else in your joints, or if you have chronic pain due to arthritis or even from an old injury, it is best to seek medical treatment before it develops into a more advanced or severe condition. Here at The Bone & Joint Center, our board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of shoulder and elbow conditions, including elbow bursitis. The sooner you come to us, the better.
To request an appointment with our bone and joint physicians, call us today at (800) 424-2663 or fill out our online appointment request form now. We look forward to helping you get past the pain and back on with life!